Australia lose Penny Taylor for Olympics

GUY HAND
Last updated 23:22 11/04/2012

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The Opals say they're devastated, but not decimated by the loss of star forward Penny Taylor for the Olympics.

Taylor's serious knee injury playing for Turkish club Fenerbahce has ruled her out of the Opals' tilt at gold in London.

The 30-year-old will undergo surgery in Melbourne to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament - saying on Wednesday missing the Olympics will be devastating.

Taylor has been part of every every major Australian women's basketball success for the past decade, including the 2006 world championship win and Olympic silver medals in Athens and Beijing.

Along with Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage, Taylor was an integral weapon in the structure the Opals hoped could finally see them topple long-time nemesis the United States in London.

Opals coach Carrie Graf admits Taylor, one of the world's best women's basketballers at the peak of her career, is irreplaceable.

But Graf was clinging to the positive that with a star of Taylor's quality, it is better to plan for life without her now than rejig gameplan and personnel just prior to the Games.

"You can't straight swap a star player. Replacing a Lauren Jackson or Penny Taylor, there aren't replacements because purely and simply they're that good," Graf told AAP.

"For us, it's about reshaping our team.

"Our of adverse situations, often opportunity is created.

"At least the positive for us is that we get to prepare the team with the knowledge that Penny's not a part, rather than have a star player go down before the Olympics having all done all the preparation."

Taylor will also miss the WNBA season with Phoenix Mercury starting next month.

She expects to return for the 2013 European season after she undergoes surgery in Melbourne next week.

Taylor had been in superb club form for Fenerbahce, recently being named European player of the year for 2011 by respected web site Eurobasket.com after averaging more than 19 points a game.

Graf does at least have a deep pool of possible squad replacements.

And in WNBA stars Erin Phillips and Jenna O'Hea, she has players capable of taking the next step to become Olympic game-breakers in Taylor's absence.

The Opals are scheduled to go into a lengthy pre-Games training camp in Australia starting next month, with internationals against Brazil in Victoria in June to round off their preparations.

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- AAP

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